[toc]Over the course of three nights of televised poker action, New Jersey native Scott Blumstein rarely relinquished the chip lead at the final table of the 2017 WSOP.
Thanks to that dominant performance, Blumstein now has over $8.1 million, a prestigious WSOP bracelet, and the title of World Champion.
Dramatic finish capped off ESPN live coverage
Certainly Blumstein proved his poker skills over the course of the tournament. However, the final hand was a dramatic and lucky one for him. He was all-in holding A-2 to Dan Ott’s A-8. With one card to come, Blumstein needed to hit a deuce and only a deuce to win, otherwise Ott would be right back in the thick of things. Blumstein hit his miracle card, ending the tournament with a dramatic flourish.
Blumstein, 25, is a professional poker player from Morristown, NJ. He did not enter any other WSOP events this summer, save for the Main Event. This is the first year he ever played the biggest poker tournament of the year.
Blumstein defeated Pennsylvania poker player Ott, 26, heads-up to claim the title. Both young pros credit their interest in the game to Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 Main Event champion.
The two youngsters bested a final table with two former Main Event November Niners, Antoine Saout and Ben Lamb. This year’s Main Event drew 7,221 players, making it the third-largest WSOP Main Event ever.
Blumstein describes himself as a New Jersey online poker grinder
Blumstein was understandably overcome with emotion after his win. Even at the height of his poker career though, Blumstein seemed grounded in who he is and what this win means.
As he told the WSOP:
“I don’t have an ego in this game. I know where I stand. I know two weeks ago I was just a New Jersey online grinder and nothing’s really changed […] This is just one poker tournament. It takes variance and luck and playing your best. And all those things came together.”
Blumstein is an online grinder indeed. He plays under the screen names “2Due4U” on WSOP.com and “SBlast2711” on BorgataPoker. Across the NJ online poker sites, he has $147,046.
Blumstein also has a couple dozen live scores dating back to 2012. His biggest cash prior to the Main Event was actually last July. While everyone was in Vegas playing the WSOP Main Event, Blumstein stayed home and won the Borgata Summer Poker Open Kickoff event for almost $200,000.
As Blumstein tells it, the future is wide open for him, and it is less about the money than you might think.
“I didn’t want to win this thing for the eight million dollars. But it’s nice to have some freedom now. That was the goal, to get to the point where I can do what I want. And I think I’m going to have that opportunity now, whether it’s poker, whether it’s business, whether it’s going back to school, whatever it is, I have the freedom to do that now.”
New Jersey’s strong showing in WSOP Main Event
Blumstein did not exactly come out of nowhere. He is part of what is arguably the hotbed for poker talent in the United States.
Since online poker launched in New Jersey in November of 2013, a year has not passed without a Garden State player at the final table. The following New Jersey players final tabled the Main Event the past four years:
- William Tonking – Fourth place in 2014
- Josh Beckley – Second place in 2015
- Thomas Cannuli – Sixth place in 2015
- Michael Ruane – Fourth place in 2016
Worth noting that Ruane also bubbled the final table this year, finishing in 10th place. Another honorable mention goes to 2015 champ Joe McKeehen, who hails from Pennsylvania, but is a frequent player in the Atlantic City casinos. Cannuli, meanwhile, followed up his final table appearance with a win in one of the three online bracelet events at WSOP.com this year.
While it is not exactly the most compelling reason for states to legalize and regulate poker, it is not a coincidence these players who grind online day in and out are the ones winning the big bucks.
California actually sent the most players to the Main Event this year with 922, while New Jersey was fifth on the list with 212. The final table was an international affair, with Great Britain, France, and Argentina represented in addition to the US. In fact, there were more players from outside of the States than Americans at 5-4.
Image c/o World Series of Poker